WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 4, 2008) -- The Army recently began a new program that offers uniform modifications - at no cost to wounded Soldiers - through the Army & Air Force Exchange Service.

The Wounded Warrior Clothing Support Program officially began in May 2008 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for Soldiers who have been injured in combat.

Wounded Soldiers can have their uniforms uniquely modified according to their injuries. This program not only makes the lives of injured Soldiers easier, officials said, but serves to restore a sense of pride and dignity they rightfully deserve when wearing their uniform.

"This program is great because it takes care of our Soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Vincent Boles, assistant deputy chief of staff, Army G-4. "The team of individuals responsible for bringing this program to life saw a need and made it happen. Now our wounded warriors can wear their uniforms with pride, dignity and comfort."

Walter Reed and Brooke Army Medical Centers were chosen to be the first facilities to implement this program because they care for a large percentage of Soldiers injured in combat, officials said. Soldiers who receive treatment at other medical facilities can take advantage of the program through their local AAFES stores.

One of the more common uniform modifications includes adding zippers to the seams of trousers and coat sleeves, giving a Soldier access to a prosthetic. Other modifications might include elastic blousing or Velcro closures on the bottom of trouser legs. Various modifications can be made to shirt sleeves and the knee area of trousers. Additional fabric can also be added inside the uniform where injuries are sensitive or prosthetics cause more wear and tear. Modifications can be made to any Army uniform.

The process of getting a uniform modified is similar to filling a medical prescription, officials said. A Soldier will work with his or her occupational or physical therapist, who will write a prescription for the changes. This prescription is written on a Personal Clothing Request, DA Form 3078. It will specify the measurements and describe what types of modifications need to be made. The Soldier will then take this prescription and his or her uniform to an AAFES designated location to turn in the items. The modifications will be made and the uniform returned within three to five days.

Through the program, Soldiers also have the opportunity to get commercial footwear designed specifically for prosthetics. The heel of a standard Army boot is too high for use with a prosthetic and causes amputees to lean forward. The custom boots this program provides minimizes that effect, allowing Soldiers to wear the full uniform as it is intended to be worn. Customized athletic shoes are also available.

Just like customizing their uniform, Soldiers need a prescription to obtain special footwear, and they also need their commander's signature on the prescription. The boots and athletic shoes can be purchased by either the medical facility or the local commander.

Several groups played a role in bringing this program to fruition, including the Army G-4, the Clothing and Services Office, AAFES, the Walter Reed Warrior Transition Brigade and the Walter Reed Garrison Clothing Issue Point. The Marine Corps' ideas and lessons learned from their Wounded Warrior support experience, as well as the selfless service of the non-profit organization "Sew Much Comfort" also played a role in the program's development for the Army.

(Devon Hylander writes for the Army G-4.)